My Third Grade Crush Is in Jail
And why this isn’t about my bad taste
Sometimes you have no idea where life circumstances will take somebody.
I was in a grade 3/4 split class. I was in grade 3, and Ben (not his real name) was in grade 4. I still had no idea about the birds and the bees at this stage of the game, but I thought Ben was very nice and oh so cute, and he made my heart go pitter patter. It was my first crush, and it was all kinds of exciting.
One morning our class was walking back to the school after some sort of field trip. I was talking to one of my friends, and Ben seemed to be listening in. I teasingly accused him of being a reporter and taking notes. His response involved him calling me “Ash” rather than “Ashley”.
I was so thrilled with this that I felt it was necessary, at least in my third grade brain, to demonstrate my disapproval, so I stepped on his foot.
While that memory is crystal clear, I don’t have any other clear memories of our interactions that year. Not long after, he transferred to the school on his Aboriginal reserve, and I didn’t see him again.
Many years later, I heard from my parents that he’d ended up in jail.
He had been performing consensual oral sex on a woman, and then he suddenly lost it. He bit her, tearing part of her labia off and spitting it across the room. He severed an artery and she could have bled to death.
Apparently he was high on crystal meth at the time. He had lived a hard life on the reserve, and his mother was an alcoholic. He got into drugs at a young age, and crime followed suit.
It’s strange to look at the online newspaper photos of him in a jail garb, handcuffed and surrounded by sheriffs. I can easily see in those photos the nice grade 4 kid I had a crush on. Yet superimposed on that image was someone who had turned into a monster.
While the judgment of a grade 3 kid might not be the greatest, I’m convinced that there was genuine good in that grade 4 boy. It’s sad to think how life conspired in such a way to snuff out that light and send him on a dark path.
It brings it just a little clearer into view how the ripple effects of colonialization and intergenerational trauma can destroy so many lives.
If only we as a society could do more to staunch that cultural bleeding, maybe more of those good kids would go on to fulfill their potential rather than have it all thrown away, discarded like a piece of labia on the floor.
I am not so naïve as to think that Ben can be saved. It certainly seems like that ship has sailed, and some changes are entirely irreversible. But I hope we can figure out how to do more so that the promising elementary school crushes of today don’t end up on the path that Ben took.